Cybersecurity, Federal Government

The Reality of the New Enterprise: Three Concepts for Success – or Failure


This month’s focus in Carahsoft’s Innovation in Government series, in collaboration with Government Computer News, focuses on “Securing the Enterprise.” Security has been difficult for enterprises of all kinds, both public and private, to deal with because it is a journey, not a destination. The thought leaders included in this month’s feature can offer you a lot of technical knowledge and advice to make the journey easier.

What I think often gets lost in the discussion around enterprise security is the non-technical stuff. And some of those points are different for federal government agencies than for private-sector organizations. In my conversations with leaders in both government and industry, I’ve found that several common concepts get mentioned time after time when I ask about what federal agencies should think about in the coming year or two.

Don’t ignore the transition – but don’t let it dictate your agenda. The government as a whole, and your agency, will have a new boss in eight months or so. You’ll have other new people – and new policies – overseeing your organization too. Certainly that means a lot of change is coming to your operations, and historically agencies sometimes slow-roll any significant changes or upgrades because “the new people might not like it.” “But that’s a great excuse to just do nothing,” one former CIO who experienced the Bush-to-Obama transition told me recently. “Be mindful of the transition that’s coming, including the politics when you can tell what they’ll be. But the not-so-dirty little secret is, transition is a great time to really affect change. What political appointee, who is looking for a job in a few months and wants to show what [he or] she can get done, is going to shut down a well-argued business plan to make a big difference in a short time?”

Don’t just think about beginnings – think about endings. A lot of people rightfully focus on what is coming – new programs, new budgets, new bosses. But a new beginning means something is ending. Whether it’s tied to a transition or not, almost every beginning is associated with the end of something else. This is proving to be especially true about infrastructure and architecture in federal IT. Almost every leader I talk to says his or her top priority is to figure out what businesses they can exit; storage is number one on the list as agencies get more comfortable with the cloud. The thought process goes far beyond the discussion of several years back surrounding “do more with less.” Now the strategy is becoming “do less.” In some cases that means doing the same tasks with fewer resources; in some cases it means doing fewer tasks. Either way, experts tell me carefully planning your exits will prove to be just as important as, or maybe more important than, planning your entrances.

The new enterprise is a tool, not a purpose. Healthcare.gov, despite its well-publicized problems, transformed government IT. It focused federal IT leaders in both government and industry on a principle that had seemingly gotten lost in the previous decade or so: the government exists to provide services to citizens. Many IT projects were judged on the success or failure of the project as IT, not as a service to allow an agency to meet its mission. Since Healthcare.gov, I’ve heard the word “customer” at least 10 times more than I ever did before it. The idea that the new enterprise, and the individual components of it, is a tool with which to serve citizens is finally embedded in the foundation of each major federal government IT project I’ve seen recently. And that can only be a good thing for the project managers, the government mission providers that the projects serve, and the citizens the providers serve.

The new enterprise is complex, and will only get more so. It is also exciting and this excitement will also continue to grow because it can enable government mission providers to serve citizens in the ways they expect to be served and in ways mission providers could only dream of even a few short years ago. The thought leaders in this month’s Innovation in Government series can help you understand not just how the technologies that will transform your enterprise work, but understand why they’ll change how your enterprise allows you to do business. By taking the “why” to your agency’s leaders and front-line people, and not just the “how”, you’ll be well positioned to be a leader, and not just a manager, through the upcoming change.

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